Let’s Not Burn Barbie

12 Apr

Mattel has launched a new Barbie line called Dolls of the World, that was intended to celebrate cultures from across the globe. They’ve created Barbie representatives from Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, Holland India, Ireland and Mexico. The majority of the dolls wear some sort of “culturally relevant” costume along with a passport and a dog.

ImageThe toy company has received a flood of criticism caused by “Mexico Barbie,” which some think is culturally stereotypical, insensitive and inappropriate with the current immigration debate. Mexico Barbie is dressed in a vibrant traditional pink dress with a pet Chihuahua, a passport and a sticker sheet to record her travels. 

The Hispanic community has had a variety of opinions when it comes to Mexico Barbie. Referring to her stylish passport, the Latin Times wondered “are they making any sort of political statement or just being creative?” NCLR Joseph Rendeiro blogged for the community to “save your outrage for something that matters.” Others in the Hispanic community believe people are overreacting and are oversensitive about the Barbie collection.

NBC TODAY.com interviewed Ana Flores, co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com and she said she sees nothing wrong with the Mexico Barbie, “I don’t rely on dolls to teach my daughter accurate culture or history — that’s what books, conversations, travels and real-life cultural events are for.” (See article “Is ‘Mexico Barbie’ a stereotype or stylish?“)

I couldn’t agree with Ana Flores more that dolls are not meant to teach culture or history to our children, but I don’t agree in instilling stereotypical images in our children’s minds which ultimately form their perception of these various communities. I know my seven year old niece knows that not all Mexican women own a chihuahua, a floral lacy pink dress or wear their hair to the side with a fashionable ribbon but what about the children that don’t? There are many impressionable children that might not have as much involvement or knowledge about the Hispanic community. When these children are introduced to these toys that claim some form of cultural representation they might associate Mexican women with that Barbie.

ImageI’m not saying let’s go burn Barbies but I am saying that Mattel could dig a little deeper into representing multicultural communities. Instead of a chihuahua why not use Mexico’s national flower the Dahlia?

Here was the toy company’s response to the public:

11 Apr 2013
“The Barbie Collector Dolls of the World line was launched in 1980 and is the largest and longest-running series in the history of the Barbie brand. Each doll wears an ensemble inspired by the traditional costume and fashion of the country. In 2012, the Barbie Collector Dolls of the World line launched dolls from Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, Holland India, Ireland and Mexico. Every doll in the current line includes a ‘passport’ and stamps as well as an animal friend providing additional play value. We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua. Our goal with the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, as well as the entire Dolls of the World Collection, is to celebrate cultural differences and tradition, introducing girls to the world through play.”

Tweet the company your thoughts @Mattel and follow me @pascaledowning

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